The flaming cathedral of Notre Dame burned through my TV screen last night. It had been on my bucket list to see, but not like this. The premiere example Gothic architecture example has fallen. Many portions of this iconic Middle Ages church is in ashes.
Yes, they will rebuild. It will take years, if not decades. But they are rebuilding a tourist attraction and a source of national identity — not a home, a refuge for those who seek God.
I did find it ironic that so many Frenchman wept at the destruction of the building, and yet there is no weeping that the church itself is empty of congregants. It is indeed a shell, a hollow showpiece that serves as a backdrop for Instagramers and selfie sticks.
At one time, thousands of young, old, rich and pour called this church home. But the secularization of Europe has swept even this body of believers into lethargy.
Even without a functioning church body, the building drew more visitors than even the Eiffel Tower. Because there is something curiously attractive about great churches.
David French calls the Notre Dame Cathedral “…a symbol of an enduring church and God’s enduring presence.”
That’s what churches are. They are symbols. Some churches are converted warehouses or storefronts. That’s the modern minimalist view. But it wasn’t always that way. The majestic edifices were community efforts, erected for the glory of God.
Some secular people don’t understand, but this at the heart of the Renaissance Era that would come later. Men and women, spurred by the creative spirit, saw their work beyond mere function, but also as worship.
That’s why the arts flourished. That’s why curious discovery occurred. Painting, music, and writing thrived. That’s why great things were done – because ordinary men and women saw the work of their hands and the utilization of their gifts as worship.
I’m praying that as they rebuild this church that they will also rebuild the body of believers. A church building without a church is just another pretty façade. And we don’t need any more of those.